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  • Major General Joseph Hooker

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    Joseph Hooker (November 13, 1814 – October 31, 1879) was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war.  Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

     After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1837, Hooker served in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican-American War, receiving three brevet promotions.  Resigning from the Army in 1853, he pursued farming, land development, and (unsuccessfully) politics in California.  After the start of the Civil War he returned to the Army as a brigadier general.  He distinguished himself as an aggressive combat commander leading a division in the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, resulting in his promotion to major general.  As a corps commander, he led the initial Union attacks at the Battle of Antietam, in which he was wounded.  At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he commanded a "Grand Division" of two corps, and was ordered to conduct numerous futile frontal assaults that caused his men to suffer serious losses.  Throughout this period, he conspired against and openly criticized his army commanders.  Following the defeat at Fredericksburg, he was given command of the Army of the Potomac.

    Hooker planned an audacious campaign against Robert E. Lee, but he was defeated by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Hooker suddenly lacked the nerve to marshal the strength of his larger army against Lee, who boldly divided his army and routed a Union corps with a flank attack by Stonewall Jackson.  Hooker began to pursue Lee at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign, but his poor performance at Chancellorsville prompted Abraham Lincoln to relieve him from command just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.  He returned to combat in November, leading two corps from the Army of the Potomac to help relieve the besieged Union Army at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and achieving an important victory at the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Chattanooga Campaign.  He continued in the Western Theater under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, but departed in protest before the end of the Atlanta Campaign when he was bypassed for a promotion to command the Army of the Tennessee.

     Hooker became known as "Fighting Joe" following a journalist's clerical error reporting from the Battle of Williamsburg; however, the nickname stuck.  His personal reputation was as a hard-drinking ladies' man, and his headquarters was known for parties and gambling, although the historical evidence discounts any heavy drinking by the general himself.  His name is often associated with the slang term for prostitute, although the word "hooker" has been documented as appearing with that meaning in print well before he became a public figure.


    Inventory Number: CDV 093